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Local product eager to leave past behind

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 11, 2002


GAINESVILLE -- It has been more than nine months since Clint Mitchell played a game.

GAINESVILLE -- It has been more than nine months since Clint Mitchell played a game.

Much too long as far as he's concerned.

The junior defensive end from Countryside High missed 10 games last season serving two suspensions for violation of team rules. His last game was Nov.3.

Most of last fall and spring, Mitchell, 21, was on a self-imposed gag order. But Saturday, he sat among reporters at media day proclaiming himself wiser, more focused and ready to put last season behind him.

"I can't wait to get out there and play," Mitchell said. "I've been practicing so long. I practiced all last year with the team and then all through spring. I think when I get my first game back, I think I'm probably going to have a hell of a game."

Coaches said Mitchell has gone out of his way to prove he is a different person. And they believe he is, coach Ron Zook said.

Several coaches said he still has the skills that made him a second-team All-American in 2000.

"When he's on the field, his motor is working extremely hard," defensive line coach Red Anderson said.

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MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Former Chamberlain High standout Dewayne DuBose is battling for the starting job at center. DuBose, a redshirt sophomore, was a co-recipient of the most improved walkon award during the spring.

Senior David Jorgensen and redshirt freshman Mike Degory also are vying for the job.

"All three are in a position to win the job," offensive line coach Joe Wickline said. "DuBose is right in there with them."

I CAN IF YOU CAN: Zook has been a "players coach" with his open-door policy and trips to the weight room, where he has challenged a few players, saying he can lift anything they can. Safety Todd Johnson said he saw Zook benching "330 or 340" on Wednesday.

Asked about Zook lifting that much, Johnson said, "It means if you talk back to him, you better be able to back it up."

* * *

NEW YORK-BOUND?: It's a long shot, but offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher could have two quarterbacks at the Heisman ceremony. Rex Grossman and Marshall's Byron Leftwich are being touted. Leftwich averaged 30 touchdowns and 3,745 yards during the two seasons he started under Zaunbrecher. Grossman is the 2001 runner-up.

"If I had to hitchhike up there," Zaunbrecher said, "I'd be in New York."

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